Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/462/1707
Devon teachers get organised
EXETER SOCIALIST Students' public meeting on privatisation and marketisation of education attracted many trainee teachers angry at New Labour's destruction of comprehensive education. Martin Powell-Davies of Socialist Party Teachers explained what the government is doing, why and how we can stop them.
Jim Lowe, Exeter Socialist Party and Devon NUT
The government's academies programme replaces democratically accountable community schools with unaccountable academies controlled by big businessmen or religious organisations. The Education and Inspections Bill creates a new kind of school, a 'Pathfinder Trust' or Foundation School.
Any school can opt out of local authority (LA) control. So far 47 (six of them in Devon) have opted to do so. These schools can set their own admissions criteria (which will favour middle-class children further) and go into partnership with big businesses. There are suggestions that a Devon school will go into partnership with drugs giant AstraZeneca.
Martin said trust schools are part of New Labour's attempts to divide workers. They are eroding national pay bargaining. In future, we could see local pay bargaining everywhere, further strengthening the penny-pinching bosses' hand over teachers.
They also try to divide teachers by Performance Pay regimes (see also article page 11) and a two-tier pension system. To get a full pension, current teachers may retire at 60, but new teachers will have to work until 65.
Gross and widening inequalities in society are a major reason for low achievement and other problems in Britain's education system. Teachers simply cannot remedy these problems in the classroom.
Former Education Secretary Charles Clarke showed the motivation behind New Labour's education 'reforms'. "A significant chunk of them [middle-class parents] go private because they feel despairing about the quality of education. They are the people we are after."
This sums up New Labour's strategy - attacking hard-working public servants, wooing the well-off and ignoring the far greater needs of working-class parents and their children. We need a strategy to resist New Labour's Victorianisation agenda and to argue for what we should want in an education system.
Martin stressed the need to get active in a union, and in local and national campaigns. Only national industrial action on teachers' workload, Performance Pay and academies and trust schools (the privatisation and marketisation of education) can begin to turn the tide, he argued, alongside local campaigns to keep schools under local democratic control.
In a lively discussion Socialist Party members raised the importance of a political fightback (through the Campaign for a New Workers' Party), as well as an industrial fightback. They showed the link between education privatisation and cuts and the rotten capitalist system which also manifests itself in war, terror, poverty, oppression, and the destruction of the NHS.
Everyone left the meeting wanting to channel their anger into action. We look now to building Socialist Party Teachers in Devon.
In The Socialist 9 November 2006:
War and terrorism
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history